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Abstract

Plastic litter poses a risk for arctic marine ecosystems and human seafood consumption. In addition to physical interference with marine life, degrading plastic may adsorb hydrophobic pollutants from surrounding seawater, as well as leaching chemical additives into the sea, acting as an exposure route of pollutants to marine organisms and eventually to humans via the food chain. The extent of the problem in the Arctic is, however, largely unknown; little is known about plastic abundance, distribution and characteristics in the water column and on the sea floor. If the Arctic is a sink for plastic litter, it is of great importance to better understand how plastic behaves and how it affects Arctic marine biota and ecosystems.
Microplastic in the Arctic the missing link?
Photo by: D. Herzke
Dorte Herzke, NILU, Norway; Claudia Halsband, Akvaplan-niva, Norway, Jan H. Sundet, IMR, Norway, Geir. W. Gabrielsen, NP,
Norway, Eirik Mikkelsen and Heidi Rapp Nilsen, NORUT, Norway
Conclusions:
Microplastics are a problem in arctic marine
ecosystems and require further monitoring and
research
Ingestion of microplastics occurs across trophic
levels of arctic marine food chains
Impacts on biota are estimated to be
considerable, but poorly understood, including
impacts on ecosystem services
Communication and dissemination to
stakeholders (public, plastic producers and
policy makers) is essential to mitigate
microplastics impacts
The problem:
Plastic litter poses a risk for arctic marine
ecosystems and human seafood consumption. In
addition to physical interference with marine life,
degrading plastic may adsorb hydrophobic
pollutants from surrounding seawater, as well as
leaching chemical additives into the sea, acting as
an exposure route of pollutants to marine
organisms and eventually to humans via the food
chain.
The extent of the problem in the Arctic is,
however, largely unknown; little is known about
plastic abundance, distribution and characteristics
in the water column and on the sea floor. If the
Arctic is a sink for plastic litter, it is of great
importance to better understand how plastic
behaves and how it affects Arctic marine biota and
ecosystems.
Acknowledgements:
Cole, M. et al. (2013) Environmental Science & Technology 47, 6646-6655; Vroom, R. (2015) MSc thesis, Wageningen University, the Netherlands (Fig. 3)
Tycho Anker-Nielsen, NINA for collaboration on Northern Fulmars
Funding: FRAM Centre; Flagship Hazardous Substances 2014-2016.
Results:
1. Microplastics are ubiquitous in arctic marine matrices (water, sediment, biota)
2. Microplastics are taken up by arctic taxa (benthic animals and seabirds)
3. Chemical composition of plastics from sediment, beached plastic waste and bird stomach
samples is different and resembles the surrounding environment
4. Microplastics are subject to biofouling, which makes it more bioavailable to feeding
zooplankton
5. Estimation of economic losses in Norwegian seafood production due to microplastics is
difficult due to large knowledge-gaps
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
0 5 10 15 20
Northern Fulmar: Size distribution in mm
Steps to an assessment of economic impact
MMP = Marine microplastics
1. Influx/
generation
of MMP
2. Fate of
MMP /
uptake in
marine
organisms
3. Physical,
chemical,
biological
impact
Mitigation?
5. Valuation/
asessment of ESS
effects
4. Ecosystem
service impacts
Adaptation?
6. Economic / welfare
changes
Plastics /
Microplastics
Marine
environment
Society
Ecosystem
sevices
Fig. 6: Socio-economic impact of plastic emissions
Fig. 2: Microplastics interactions in arctic marine
ecosystems
Fig. 5: Ingested plastic in Northern Fulmars
(Norwegian Arctic/mainland)
Fig. 1: Microplastics and pathways of associated contaminants
Fig.: 4: Northern Fulmar (photo by T. Anker Nielsen)
Beached
plastic
Ingested
plastic
©T. Anker-Nielsen
Chemical additives
Dissolved chemical
pollutants, e.g. POPs
Biota
sorption
leaching
Marine environment:
A
B
C
A
1 mm
B
Fig. 3: Zooplankton ingesting (A) and egesting (B)
microplastics (green fluorescence). Plastics with a
biofilm have a higher probability of ingestion by
copepods than clean plastics (C).
1 mm
fecal pellet
copepod
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